Uncapped Mandela Keita was called up by Belgium on Friday to add bite to the midfield for its European Championship qualifiers against Austria and Sweden this month, coach Domenico Tedesco said on Friday.
The 21-year-old Keita, from Belgian champion Royal Antwerp, replaces Hugo Siquet in the only change to the 24-man squad from last month’s wins over Azerbaijan and Estonia.
Belgium meets Austria in a top-of-the-table clash in Vienna on October 13 before hosting Sweden in Brussels three days later.
“We need some physicality in the centre for these two opponents. Therefore, we have decided for Mandela,” Tedesco told a press conference on Friday.
The Belgians have captain Kevin De Bruyne and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois out with long-term injuries and Tedesco said he was pleased about top scorer Romelu Lukaku’s return to action at AS Roma.
“He scores, his coach (Jose Mourinho) has confidence in him. That is not only good for Romelu but for us too,” he added.
Belgium is level on 13 points from five matches with Austria at the top of Group F, with the Swedes a distant third on six points.
Goalkeepers: Arnaud Bodart (Standard Liege), Koen Casteels (VfL Wolfsburg), Thomas Kaminski (Luton Town), Matz Sels (Racing Strasbourg)
Defenders: Ameen Al-Dakhil (Burnley), Timothy Castagne (Fulham), Zeni Debast (Anderlecht), Wout Faes (Leicester City), Arthur Theate (Stade Rennes), Jan Vertonghen (Anderlecht)
Midfielder: Yannick Carrasco (Al Shabab), Charles De Ketelaere (Atalanta), Olivier Deman (Werder Bremen), Mandela Keita (Royal Antwerp), Orel Mangala (Nottingham Forest), Amadou Onana (Everton), Youri Tielemans (Aston Villa)
Forwards: Johan Bakayoko (PSV Eindhoven), Mitchy Batshuayi (Fenerbahce), Jeremy Doku (Manchester City), Romelu Lukaku (AS Roma), Dodi Lukebakio (Sevillla), Lois Openda (RB Leipzig), Leonardo Trossard (Arsenal).